This ‘rhino court’ had 100 percent poacher convictions. Why was it closed?

Some conservationists and activists in South Africa are concerned that criminal syndicates are making it even more difficult to protect rhinos from poachers.

A special field ranger patrols for poachers inside Kruger National Park, home to about 30 percent of the world’s remaining 18,000 rhinos. Some conservationists believe suspicious actions have sidelined rangers, giving poachers openings to kill more rhinos.

Photograph by James Oatway, Getty Images

“Go now! The spoor is fresh!” Sandra Snelling, an operations manager for South African National Parks (SANParks), exclaimed, sending a squad of rangers on their next mission: tracking the poachers who had just killed a rhino in Kruger National Park.

It was October 2016, and I’d come to Skukuza, a SANparks post inside Kruger, to see how anti-poaching operations are carried out in the famed 7,500-square-mile preserve, where about 30 percent of the world’s estimated remaining 18,000 wild rhinos live.

Urgent dispatches are no surprise to these rangers, members of a special operations unit. Kruger, which encompasses land in Mpumalanga and Limpopo provinces, has long been a key target of poachers who kill rhinos for their horns, says Johan Jooste, former head

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